Posted 20th March 2014 | By Nick Evans, Chairman

Most of the older generation (40+) consider that their smartphone is a phone with add-ons such as email, web browsing and more.

Those who have grown up in the digital age have a very different view – one that configures their use of it and manifests itself as obsessive interest in and engagement with their tiny electronic device. Will this get better or worse as wearable tech begins to dominate the market?

It's safe to say that our passion for technology will not diminish as it becomes woven into the fabric of our lives. So, here are 10 reasons why your phone is not a phone any more:

1. Most smartphones are actually less good at being a phone than the simple mobiles of the early 2000's. They have more features relating to phoning – ability to initiate calls by speech, cloud-based directories and more, but for phoning they are simply OK, not great. Hence why some people have a small tablet for their smartphone-like activities and a simple phone for calls.

2. Your phone is an Internet-aware device. If you allow it, it will constantly connect to the Internet and monitor anything that has been configured to be connected to it either directly or indirectly. The Internet of Things (connectivity of everything from watches to fridges) makes this feature of our phones one of the most likely to grow. Already we can control our central heating, switch lights on and off or close automatic curtains in our home using smartphone-controlled technology. Monitoring location of things and people is also becoming easier – keep tabs on your child or your car, for example.

3. Your phone is also your personal assistant. You can talk to it and it will answer, sometimes even providing sensible responses to your questions! Technologies such as Siri on Apple's iPhone or Google Now on Android will only improve and extend their functionality, enabling you not just to initiate a call to someone or send a text by voice command, but to engage in more sophisticated interactions with other remote Internet-based systems such as booking portals, shopping and support.

4. Your phone's monitoring capability may also be developed to keep you healthy and warn you of problems. Heart rate, blood pressure, activity levels and stress can already be monitored with ease, using relatively simple devices that speak directly to your smartphone, enabling you to keep tabs on your status. Again, it's unlikely that this technology will do anything but grow and become more effective. Wearable tech such as enhanced sports clothing will also extend this monitoring into performance-related data, feeding back information that may be compared with past events.

5. Your phone can also be your advisor. Using the right apps, you can monitor your exercise or your diet and receive in return suggestions of how you can optimise your weight or fitness level by adjusting what you do or what you eat. It's a given that the phone will tell you where you are and in which direction your destination may be found. But as the technology becomes more aware of your surroundings and those surroundings themselves exploit the technology, so you will be alerted that, yes, there's a Starbucks nearby and, by the way, the app in your phone can enable you to pay without cash.

6. Your phone can give you access to augmented reality views. These add a layer of techno-generated content on top of the view seen through your phone's camera. This might be as simple as pointing your phone at a magazine page to initiate a video of the latest update to the content there. Or it may be about adding a layer of information such as directions or place names to a street view seen through the phone's screen. How long before we point our phone at someone to know who they are, or at everyday features such as trees or plants to identify them? Shazam for wildlife anyone?

7. Your phone can be used as a payment device. It can identify you as an individual and debit money direct from an account to pay for purchases small or large. This "digital wallet" approach is already being seen in stores or outlets that have their own dedicated apps. These merge the experience of online shopping with the physical retail store so that, entering the Apple Store for example, with the appropriate app enabled, you can scan a product, get reviews and tech specs and then purchase that product with a debit on your Apple ID, before walking out of the store with the product, without having spoken to an assistant. Your phone is integral to this process.

8. Your phone is your portal to information and learning. As more courses go online, education on the move – when you are commuting for example - is perfectly possible. The Internet is a given, but structured courses – many for free – are available from anywhere in the world. And many of them are accredited too. Your dead time no longer needs to be dead, when you have your friendly smartphone to hand.

9. Your phone helps you record your life through video and photos as well as through the written word. Never before have so many photos been taken, edited and shared as is now possible with the tech in your phone and the online services that help you share what you make. It's revolutionised our communication and our connectivity with one another and has enabled the rapid dissemination of news events the moment they have happened – whether these are international, national or simply personal.

10. Your phone is your portal to entertainment. Whether it is online movies and TV shows, or shared content from friends and families and online communities where you share your interests with others, your phone can stream content to you whenever you are connected. You can also be your own producer and director to create that entertainment with simple video tools and apps that enable you to do more with your phone than was possible with a computer and video camera only ten years ago.

So – still think your phone's just a phone? What technology age are you living in? 

Nick Evans from ExtraMile

At ExtraMile we try to take an hour out each week to look around us at what others do and to gain inspiration and to admire people's creativity. Each post in this series is one staff member's take on the world of web, design and things online. We hope you enjoy it.


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